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How to Use Fill Layers in Photoshop CS6

Fill layers in Adobe Photoshop Creative Suite 6 give you additional options for your image. A fill layer lets you add a layer of solid color, a gradient, or a pattern. Fill layers also have layer masks, as indicated by the mask icon thumbnail in the Layers panel.

You can create as many fill layers as you want, just as you can with regular layers and adjustment layers. You can also edit, rearrange, duplicate, delete, and merge fill layers. Additionally, you can blend fill layers with other layers by using the opacity, fill, and blending mode options in the Layers panel.

To confine the effects of a fill layer to a portion of the image, make a selection, or create and select a closed path, before you create the fill layer.

Editing or changing the contents of a fill layer is similar to editing or changing the contents of an adjustment layer, except that fill layers don’t have their own panel. To edit a fill layer, double-click the fill layer thumbnail in the Layers panel.

Here’s how to create a fill layer:

  1. Open an image of your choice.

    In this case, open an image that would look good with a border or text. For the example, the word Fujiyama was created by using the Horizontal Type Mask tool. If you don’t have an active selection, the fill layer encompasses your entire canvas.

  2. Choose Layer→New Fill Layer. From the submenu, choose your desired adjustment. Name the layer, leave the other options at their defaults, and click OK.

    You can also just click the Create a New Fill or Adjustment Layer icon at the bottom of the Layers panel and select a fill from the drop-down menu.

  3. Follow the steps that correspond with the option you chose in Step 2:

    • Solid Color: Select your desired color from the Photoshop Color Picker.

    • Gradient: Select a preset gradient from the drop-down panel or click the gradient preview to display the Gradient Editor, where you can create your own gradient. Set additional gradient options, as desired.

    • Pattern: Select a pattern from the drop-down panel. Drag the scale slider to adjust the size of the pattern. The Washed Watercolor paper pattern is 75%. Click Snap to Origin to position the origin of the pattern with the document window. Finally, select the Link with Layer option to specify that the pattern moves with the fill layer if you move it.

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  4. Click OK.

    After you close the dialog box, the fill layer appears in the Layers panel. Similar to adjustment layers, a layer mask is created on the fill layer. In the example, Fujiyama appears white on the layer mask, thereby allowing the pattern to show through. The remaining areas are black, hiding the pattern.

    [Credit: ©iStockphoto.com/rssfhss Image #3373759]
    Credit: ©iStockphoto.com/rssfhss Image #3373759

    If you want to delete the fill layer, do one of four things: Drag it to the trash can icon in the Layers panel; choose Delete→Layer from the Layer menu; choose Delete Layer from the Layers panel options menu; or the easiest, press the Backspace key (Delete on the Mac) on your keyboard.

You can rasterize a fill layer to convert it to a regular raster image. Choose Layer→Rasterize→Fill Content. A raster image enables you to use painting tools or filters on the layer.

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